Friday , 22 February 2019

Church leader welcomes new funding to tackle loneliness

The Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison (Photo: The Church of Scotland /  John Young / © YoungMedia 2013 - www.YoungMedia.co.uk) The Reverend Dr Angus Morrison, Minister of Orwell and Portmoak Church in the Presbytery of Perth, has become Moderator Designate of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Dr Morrison will take up the office of Moderator in May 2014 at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  For further information please contact: Nick Jury Senior Media Relations Officer Communications Department The Church of Scotland 121 George Street Edinburgh EH2 4YN   Tel: 0131 240 2268 Mobile:  07881 971 953 Free first use picture issued on behalf of The Church of Scotland. Please credit: Picture by John Young / © YoungMedia 2013 - www.YoungMedia.co.uk  The Reverend Dr Angus Morrison, Minister of Orwell and Portmoak Church in the Presbytery of Perth, has become Moderator Designate of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Dr Morrison will take up the office of Moderator in May 2014 at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  For further information please contact: Nick Jury Senior Media Relations Officer Communications Department The Church of Scotland 121 George Street Edinburgh EH2 4YN   Tel: 0131 240 2268 Mobile:  07881 971 953
The Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison (Photo: The Church of Scotland / John Young / © YoungMedia 2013 – www.YoungMedia.co.uk) 

The Moderator of Church of Scotland has welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling the growing problem of loneliness through its new Social Isolation and Loneliness Fund.

A fund has been set up to tackle loneliness and isolation, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced the establishment of the fund this week, which aims to tackle loneliness and social isolation.

Speaking of the initiative, which has been designed to have a preventative impact on people from vulnerable groups who may experience isolation, Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison said: “The growing loneliness we see all around us touches us all directly, as our population gets older and more people are living alone or far away from their families. This is a major challenge of our time – being divided, being separated, feeling alienated. We feel our great human community pulling apart and fragmenting.”

He added that the Church of Scotland is also keen to work to address the issue: “The Church is also one of the largest providers of social spaces used by many local groups. We also support projects directly. Our own ‘Go For It’ Fund has provided grants worth £144,390 to three groups helping connect young families in Inverness and working with isolated elderly and disabled people in Central Scotland.

“As Moderator, I have been privileged to see the practical difference the Church is making every day in tackling social isolation in communities across the county. Christian faith brings a supreme message of hope – hope anchored in the reality that, just as God is with us, we can be with one another.”

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government, Mr Neil said that he recognised that “social isolation can damage a person’s sense of belonging, empowerment and contribution to society”, adding that he was “delighted to be announcing more than half a million pounds in funding in order to help [tackle] this.”

In addition to the government’s £548,000 commitment, the Church of Scotland’s Go For It Fund has awarded nearly £3million since it was established in 2012 and currently supports around 120 projects across Scotland.  Specific Go For It supported projects being recognised by the Scottish parliament include Befriend Motherwell and Befriend Belshill – both of which “match” volunteer befrienders with individuals deemed to lonely or socially isolated and aims to empower individuals to lead more independent lives. Conservative MSP, Margaret Mitchell, who represents the Central Scotland region, recently lodged a motion which expressed “gratitude for the difference” they make to people’s lives. She said: “The befriending projects currently taking place in Motherwell and Bellshill are inspirational initiatives that not only benefit isolated members of the community but also the volunteers themselves.”

While many initiatives focus on elderly people, other projects also aim to reach out to younger people at risk of loneliness. Another Go For It project, in Inverness, is focused on enabling families to increase social connections and develop confidence in parenting.

The government’s announcement follows the publication of an official report commissioned by the Equal Opportunties Committee last year, which found that loneliness was “as damaging to Scots health as poverty and poor housing” and recommended action. Committee chair Margaret McCulloch stated that “social isolation and loneliness is a considerable problem in Scotland and individual citizens, public services and the Scottish Government must take collective responsibility to tackle the situation” and argued that “we cannot stand still over this.”

Disabled people and LGBTI people have consistently been identified as groups vulnerable to social isolation and its consequences and while no specific LGBTI-related project has received direct funding so far it is expected that many LGBTI people and their families will directly benefit from some of the new initiatives.

Last month, responding to the Committee’s report, Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi admitted there was a”strong moral case” for addressing the issue but warned there could be “no quick fixes”.

Mr Biagi said that further research had been commissioned on how widespread isolation and loneliness is throughout Scotland, and what measures could be taken to tackle the problem.

He said: “The time is right to take action here. This is a chance to make sure Scotland is different, to tap into the groundswell that’s out there and through real concerted actions ensure that vulnerable, socially isolated people regardless of age will have the support they need to be connected to the services and communities around them.”

About Andrew Page

Andrew Page
Andrew is KaleidoScot's sports editor and photographer. An experienced blogger, Andrew was raised in the Hebrides and currently lives in Renfrewshire. Andrew became an active equality campaigner at the time of the Section 28 debate, and has particular interests in faith issues and promoting LGBTI equality in sport. Andrew was shortlisted for the Icon Award's 2015 Journalist of the Year.

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